Marc Stamp, Gleaner Writer
After missing the opening game against Mexico in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualification (WCQ) final phase due to injury, Jamaica's men's senior football team all-time leading goalscorer, Luton Shelton, has recovered and is fully focused on the job ahead. That is the Reggae Boyz WCQ game against Panama on Friday at the National Stadium, starting at 8:30 p.m.
"My fitness (level) is up and everything is good. I have been playing for the last three weeks for my club (Karabikspor, Turkey) and I scored on the weekend in a 2-1 loss ... I feel good, I am ready for the game on Friday," Shelton told The Gleaner during a tour of Digicel's headquarters in downtown Kingston by four members of the Reggae Boyz squad yesterday.
"I am fully focused like everybody. We come here well motivated because we have a big game (against Panama) ahead of us. We got a good result in Mexico. We have to look forward as the fans are expecting a lot from us," Shelton, who was the team's captain during the previous round of qualifiers, said.
Historic 0-0 draw
Shelton said he watched in Turkey as Jamaica battled to a historic 0-0 draw against CONCACAF kingpins Mexico at the feared high altitude Azteca Stadium. "It was good to see how the guys went out and put on a good performance. We had a team with four or five fellows that were playing together for the first time. Yes, I am impressed. Now we have to move on," he added.
"Now to come back as a leading player in the national team, to join the team in search of further success in front of the crowd at home ... I am anxiously awaiting the game on Friday," Shelton also said.
In the last failed WCQ campaign, Shelton was the nation's top goalscorer. Now, he hopes to lead the attack in the quest for qualification to the World Cup finals in Brazil next year.
"There is a lot of hope for this one. Now, I come back to try to do my best and lead the team forward because it is more important to take the team to the World Cup than me scoring goals. I love to score goals for my country, but wins are more important," Shelton said.
"Naturally, I would love the crowd to come out and give support because as you see where we are trying to do our best. Sometimes they judge footballers how they want, but we just want them to come out," the 27-year-old striker said.
Shelton has been capped for the Under-17, U-20, U-23 and senior national teams, and is the Reggae Boyz all-time leading scorer with 36 goals from 70 games.
Full Caption: Tahnida Nunes (centre), Digicel's sponsorship manager, teams up with Reggae Boyz (from left) Luton Shelton, Demar Phillips, Alvas Powell and Jermaine Hue, along with Lesa Lee and Dwight Williams, winners of the 120 Score Plenty Promotion, during a tour of the Digicel state-of-the-art retail store, downtown Kingston, yesterday. Also, Williams and Lee both won five VIP tickets and five Digicel-branded Reggae Boyz jerseys through the promotion. - Contributed